When Stanford sophomores Sam Schwager and Teddy Jungreis asked me to cover the release of their new app, MarcoPolo, on Cath in College, I agreed for several reasons. First and foremost, I like MarcoPolo. Second, I feel the philosophy upon which the app is built strongly aligns with that of this blog. (Sharing perspectives, meeting new people, delving into the intricacies of the human experience, etc). Lastly, I want to take advantage of the opportunity to share a totally alternative perspective on the Stanford experience with my Dear Readers. So with that, dive in, learn, and enjoy!
So, Sam and Teddy…
How does MarcoPolo work?
Sam: MarcoPolo is a Bluetooth-based social discovery app that facilitates interactions between nearby users who we believe should meet one another. Users input personal information when they set up their profiles, and we use that info to make quality matches. [And then] you just leave the app running as you go about your day, and it notifies you when someone we think you’d get along with is nearby.
Teddy: More than the world-class academics and sunny weather, the best asset at Stanford is the people. That’s why we think it’s a shame that most student social networks are created within the first half of Fall Quarter freshman year and then remain basically unchanged. Imagine all of the missed opportunities.
Sam: Our hope is that MarcoPolo will bring the campus together by giving people the ability to meet new people and recreate that freshman experience. In my opinion, the best part of Stanford is the people, so why not meet as many of them as you can before you graduate.
What’s it like to start a business while taking classes and being involved in extracurriculars and fulfilling all the other demands of being a full-time student?
Sam: It’s been really fun so far, but it definitely takes a good amount of time and planning. Overall, I think the experience of balancing school and a business teaches you a lot and forces you to figure out how to make the most of your time.
Teddy: This is actually not my first rodeo. Last year, I started a beachwear company called SolTat with Konner Robison. Our product is a foam body decal that leaves a natural tan tattoo after being worn in the sun. Currently, we have a growing presence in my home state of Florida. Between SolTat and MarcoPolo, it has been quite a ride juggling startup stuff with everything else at Stanford. As most Stanford students know, it all comes down to time management.
What’s one thing people wouldn’t expect about the process of starting a business?
Sam: I think the most surprising part so far has been dealing with random obstacles that seem to pop up out of nowhere. Right when you think you have everything figured out, some problem comes up and you just have to deal with it. For example, we got rejected from the App Store the first time around, but after a couple weeks of hard work we were finally able to convince them to reverse their decision. It’s really easy to get caught up in your project, but challenges like these are really humbling and keep you grounded if you look at them the right way.
Teddy: One major thing that most people don’t expect from starting a company is the amount of experience and knowledge that you gain in such a small amount of time. Things are constantly changing, which forces you to keep learning and being curious. And you keep running into a never-ending set of diverse problems, which become increasingly more rewarding to solve. My personal advice is if you are interested in entrepreneurship, start a company. There is no book or class that can replace it.
How did you end up here– sophomore year, creating an app? Where did the inspiration and idea come from?
Teddy: This past summer when I was in New York interning something hit me. I vividly remember how strange it seemed that human beings, some of the most social primates on this planet, would be crammed next to each other on the subway and stare at their smartphones instead of strike up a conversation. Being an intern in a new city, I also thought that there had to be a better way to meet people. When I came back to Stanford in the fall, I told some close friends of my idea to create an app to solve this problem. However, most of them thought it was too different, except for Sam.
Sam: I initially had my doubts about an app that would force people to actually interface with one another in person. After playing around with the idea for a while, however, we decided something like this could work at a place like Stanford since, after all, everyone here is super interesting and generally pretty friendly. We refined the idea together for a while and then brought the other two founders, Kirill and Rohan, on board. Teddy and I realized early on that we didn’t have the technical skills to build this on our own, and Kirill and Rohan have been amazing at both programming the app and applying their technical knowledge to enhance the overall idea. After a lot of time and effort, we’ve finally finished MarcoPolo, which we really hope will contribute to the Stanford community and solve the problem we originally set out to fix.
What do you envision for the future of MarcoPolo?
Sam: Right now you have to have a Stanford.edu email address to use the app, but if all goes well we’d love to bring MarcoPolo to other schools throughout the country as well. After all, the issue of not meeting enough new people is not Stanford-specific.
Teddy: We really see MarcoPolo as more than just an app. It’s a platform. Right now, we are connecting like-minded individuals with similar interests, however the end goal is much larger. We want to create a real social network that optimizes human efficiency and opportunity. With MarcoPolo, we want to “Make Your World Smaller.”
Stanford students can download MarcoPolo today! Just click HERE.
Sam: I’m from Houston, Texas, and I’m a Mechanical Engineering major and a CS minor. I’m in Kappa Sig, and I’m also a tutor at EPATT. I’m really into golf and traveling, and I plan on studying abroad in Madrid next fall.
Teddy: My name is Teddy Jungreis, and I am from a city outside of Orlando, FL called Winter Park. I am studying Management Science and Engineering. Beyond classes, I am a goalie on the Stanford club lacrosse team and a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. Additionally, I am very passionate about entrepreneurship and enjoy working on projects, like MarcoPolo and SolTat (beachwear company I started with Konner Robison last year).
Thanks, Teddy and Sam, for thinking of Cath in College with the release of MarcoPolo!